A Beautiful Mezuzah

Question

Dear Rabbi, I am making a needlepoint cover case for a mezuzah and there are two inserts available. One is hand-written, the other one is reproduced. Is there a religious difference, or just a price difference? Thanks.

, 5 months

Answers

  1. Good question. I am sure your craftwork is splendid, and it is commendable since beautifying a mitzvah — including the mitzvah of mezuzah — is itself a mitzvah, learned from the verse, “This is my God and I will glorify Him.” However, it is important to distinguish between the actual mezuzah itself — which is a small parchment with specific verses written on it — and the mezuzah cover, something which is not part of the actual mezuzah mitzvah but is meant to protect the parchment of the mezuzah and the writing on it, and to beautify the actual mezuzah.

    To specifically address your question: The “insert” you refer to is the actual mezuzah and must be handwritten. A reproduction made by a scanner, copier, printer or the like is not kosher. The needlepoint cover you are making is not the mezuzah but protects the mezuzah and beautifies the mitzvah of the mitzvah. A cover case for the mezuzah may be made out of virtually anything, and needlepoint sounds terrific — unless it will not protect the mezuzah parchment from the elements if it is placed outside the front door or any outside door.

    The laws of mezuzah are detailed and precise. Therefore, the mezuzah should be written by a knowledgeable and qualified Jewish scribe. It must be written with special ink on a specific type of parchment. Only certain erasures and corrections are allowed.

    All these conditions and more will often make a valid mezuzah more expensive than an invalid one. This, plus rampant ignorance, has opened the mezuzah market to a flood of bogus mezuzahs. A recent study found that upwards of 90 percent of all mezuzahs are invalid. Any Judaica dealer who sells photocopied “mezuzahs” is either ignorant about mezuzahs or is simply dishonest. Either way, any mezuzah he sells, even a handwritten one, is very likely to not be kosher. The only way to get a valid mezuzah is to buy it from a qualified, knowledgeable, God-fearing scribe or a reliable retailer. Nowadays, just as there are organizations that offer supervision for kosher food, there are also organizations that certify that a mezuzah is kosher.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team